I was about to write about Adad Hannah’s work: All is Vanity (Mirrorless Version) to continue the series of artists within Ottawa but how could one consciously write about art in light of what is currently happening? The results of Ottawa’s new political residents have just been announced at the tails of one of the biggest oil spills Alberta has experienced since 1975. Right now we are all busy digesting the results of our new MPs that will make-up the government of Canada: more NDPs, a majority of Conservatives and less Liberals than anyone ever thought imaginable (who’s the Bloc Quebecois?). So I am particularly amazed that I even heard of the oil spill, five days after the fact, as we continue to focus on the age of most of our new MPs or lack of.
The oil spill has managed to leak 4.1 million liters of oil into the Peace River watershed in Northern Alberta. It has contaminated eight acres of Beaver ponds and muskeg. All this has caused Little Buffalo’s school to close down. Reports of sick children, nausea and headaches have surfaced. The Vice-President of Plains Midstream Canada, Mike Hallaham, has issued an apology and statement that the oil spill has been contained as of May 5th 2011. Ed Stelmach, our trusted Premiere, has issued criticism towards the company but refuses to send Alberta’s Minister of Environment, Rob Renner, to the site of the spill. It seems that the oil company is alone in this one, or is it?
As Ottawa is busy reforming the Government of Canada, our neighbours have been busy, making sure that debate is kept under wraps when it concerns the Big Oil welfare tax. On el 5th of May, the US House of Representatives voted down the potential of legislation to even start debates on the Big Oil welfare tax. I am not even going to begin to questions why such a debate is being kept hush-hush, never will I speculate why such a topic was voted down. That’s the job of an American citizen. As a Canadian, I hold it my responsibility, to look at what our Government is doing regarding our oil-tax subsidies and this is what I’ve managed to uncover within the last couple of hours/days:
1. A group of lawyers, Ecojustice, have been issuing complaints against the Government of Canada in regards to oil-tax subsidies. Since 2005 they have been making a call to the Governor General to investigate oil-tax subsidies. In 2007 they issued a complaint to the House of Finances committee with the result of then Finance Minister Flaherty announcing the phasing out of the Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance (ACCA) but it was slated to happen this year. They’ve continued the call to the Governor General to further investigate on this issue and the complaint is still in progress.
2. The ACCA has allowed for oil and gas companies to claim tax-breaks on new equipment used to acquire precious black gold. But of course, all in the path of creating sustainable equipment. In the meantime Oil and Gas companies continue to invest in new pipelines, their shiny and new. This program is set to be phased between 2011 (this year) and 2015.
3. The International Institute for Sustainable Development has reported that federal subsidies and tax breaks to oil and gas companies is estimated to being 1.4 billion dollars, where 840 million of those dollars come from taxpayers. I wish I had legal documents provided by the Government of Canada to let me know which companies are claiming these tax-breaks. Think parliament will let me see them?
4. The Toronto Star has confirmed, as of May 1st, the government’s intentions of oil-tax subsidies reform. Yes, friends, they are taking a look at oil-tax subsidies.
5. In the mean time, Plains Midstream Canada, plans on creating another pipeline, 301 km long! Lucky, since Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has restricted the operation of the Rainbow pipeline (ya know, the one that has generated the biggest oil spill in Alberta in over 30 years), so the economy is coming back like a champ. This one is called, Rainbow Pipeline II is exactly the sort of equipment that will benefit from a 100% tax-break, ahem, write-off. Oh, and this initiative started in 2010.
Politely, I say, thanks Government for taking a look at oil-tax subsidies. I’ll continue to be polite and issue a call to sign a petition created on the David Suzuki website, you can sign here (Jack Layton sends you a message):
The first step is to become aware, second to voice our concern and the third will be deliberated as soon as we know where this new federal government stands. But in the meantime consider this an official letter to the Member of Parliament that represents me: Jim Hillyer.